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How to travel safely with a dog in the car

author Lucy Byrne | Sport and travel

It might not be as easy as it appears to be to provide safety for the dog and yourself when travelling by car. Not every harness is suitable for a car ride and not every transportation box. First, let’s see the basic rules of driving with a dog:

  • The dog shouldn’t travel in the front seat or on the lap of the passenger (not only could it fly through the glass, but even if it were secured by a seatbelt, it could be injured by an exploding airbag).
  • The dog should be safely secured, either in the trunk separated by bars, in a transportation box or in the back seat.
  • Never tie the dog to the fastening belt by the collar!
  • If you are going abroad, check local law. For example, in Italy, every           dog has to have its transportation box. In some countries, it is             forbidden to leave the dog alone in a car.     
  • During longer journeys, take breaks every 2-3 hours, let the dog go for a   run, let it drink and do one’s needs.   
  • Beware of open windows: a strong gust of air can cause conjunctivis or ear        inflammation to the dog.

Therefore, it is safe both for you and your dog, if you put it either into the boot, or in the back seats in the right harness and secured with a seatbelt. What do the individual options involve?

Transporting the dog in the trunk

If you decide to transport the dog in the trunk separated by bars or by a mesh (however, this isn’t suitable for larger dogs), you have to remember that no freely moving things are be inside. So you have to find a different space for your luggage or secure them carefully inside the trunk, so that they wouldn’t move in case of a possible impact and they wouldn’t hurt the dog. However, at the same time, there must be enough space left for the dog, so that it could lie down comfortably.

Transportation box

This type of transport is possibly the safest for the dog. Choosing the right box is, however, very important. It is necessary to choose it in such a way, so that it protects the dog upon impact. For this reason, it shouldn’t be plastic.

The Center Of Pet Safety tested several popular transportation carriers and boxes to establish their effectiveness in a car crash. In eight carrier models and four boxes they simulated a front impact at the speed of about 49 km/h (30 mph) using dog and cat figurines. And imagine, that only two carriers and one box passed the test. The other ones either didn’t hold the animal inside, or they didn’t stay fixed. You can see the test here. Here you will find a complete overview of the results of the carriers and here of the boxes.

According to the results, it seems, that not all the products intended for transportation are capable of securing the dog and its protection in case of an impact. Many producers claim that their products have undergone crash tests, but since there are no uniform testing standards, this claim might be misleading.

When choosing a box or a carrier, try to get as much information about the product or experience of other people as possible. Remember to choose the right size:

  • The length of the carrier should correspond with the length of the dog + half the length of the front legs
  • The width of the carrier should be twice the width of the dog
  • The height of the carrier should be as much as to allow the dog to stand up in it
  • If the dog spends a longer time inside the carrier it’s better, of course, to pick a larger size.

Transporting in the back seat

If you are going to transport the dog in the back seats, get them a safety harness that has a fortified chest belt. The regular one is not enough, it’s not constructed for this purpose and it might not have seams that are strong enough. It also won’t provide safety for you or your dog if you tie them with a regular leash in the car. The safety belt is fastened directly to the buckle of the seat belt and it’s from a material that’s strong enough for it to serve its purpose. The right setting of its length is also important. It should be sufficient for the dog to sit or lie down, but it shouldn’t be able to reach the front seats.

A suitable accessory is a special waterproof cover for the seats or car seats for smaller dogs.

How do you transport your darlings?